Letters from Irish Emigrants and others, put
in by Sir Robert Gore Booth Bart: [1846-1849]
Source: “Appendix to the Minutes and Evidence before the Select
Committee on Colonization from Ireland: Appendix X Letters from Irish Emigrants
and others, put in by Sir Robert Gore Booth Bart.,” in British Parliamentary
Papers, Emigration, v.5, 122-132.
Dates of creation: 1846-1849
Biographical sketch/Administrative history
The Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland
was established to determine the validity of instating a program which would
assist with the immigration of Irish paupers to British North American colonies.
It was hoped that in so doing some of the strain would be lifted off of Great
Britain, thereby improving wages and conditions in Ireland and creating industrious
new workers in the colonies.
Gore Booth pursued a scheme such as this in 1847,
evicting his tenant farmers from Lissidale, Sligo, Ireland, and sponsoring their
subsequent passage to Saint John, New Brunswick on three ships, the Aeolus,
the Yeoman, and the Lady Sale. Letters written to Sir Gore Booth,
his brother Henry Gore Booth, and the family members, by tenants who emigrated
under this plan, were used as evidence by the Committee in their deliberations.
Scope and content
Sponsoring large numbers of tenants to emigrate
raised questions regarding Gore Booths intentions. It is easily debated that
his purpose was to free up more of his land for pasture and to release himself
from the burden of his destitute tenants at a time when the famine was at its
worst. The burden of caring for these individuals then fell upon the public
purse of the city of Saint John, which struggled with the influx. Others saw
it as a philanthropic act, providing new opportunities for the tenants in a
colony which needed industrious workers. Differing accounts exist of the conditions
which passengers faced, and these letters reveal that dichotomy. Some letters
claim that Gore Booth provided adequate provisions for the voyage and arranged
for assistance upon their arrival, while others tell of illness and poor conditions
during and after the voyage.
Further documentation on the arrival of these
immigrants exists in RS555-B1b2a, and RS55-B1b5, wherein the arrival and passage
conditions of the Aeolus, Yeoman, and Lady Sale are discussed.
The letters are arranged in the order in which
they appear in the original with some omissions:
01 Letter from Michael Driscoll, Saint
John, N.B., to Sir Robert Gore Booth, 13 June .
As Captain of the ship Aeolus, Driscoll writes
to tell Sir Robert Gore Booth of the ships arrival in New Brunswick, the conditions
maintained onboard and the circumstances met upon their arrival.
Letter from John
Robertson, Saint John, N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 14 July 1847. Robertson was
Gore Booth’s agent in charge of the emigrating tenants.
Written to Sir Robert Gore Booth’s brother, Henry,
this letter acknowledges the impending arrival of the Yeoman and the Lady Sale
in Saint John and preparations being made for their arrival. Discusses issues
faced in trying to find employment for passengers of the Aeolus.
Letter from John Robertson, Saint John,
N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 29 June 1847.
Informs Sir Robert Gore Booth’s brother, Henry,
of Driscoll’s departure on the Aeolus with cargo bound for Ireland. Tells him
of the work that is to be had in New Brunswick and the difficulty in getting
some passengers to procure it. Mentions the poor condition of other ships and
immigrants in comparison to the Aeolus.
Letter from Committee
(passengers) of the Ship Aeolus, Saint John, N.B., to Sir Robert Gore Booth,
5 June 1847.
Expresses the passengers thanks to Henry Gore
Booth, brother of Robert Gore Booth, for his provisions and the quality of the
passage. Describes good voyage conditions, with the exception of a few illnesses
and a storm.
05 Letter from John Purden, Saint John,
N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 19 August 1847.
Written by the Captain of the Yeoman over a number of days after arrival. Informs
Gore Booth of the number of passengers on board, 16 stowaways, number of ill
and dead and describes the inspections of the ship and passengers made by a
doctor and emigration agent.
06 Letter from Richard Yeats, Saint John,
N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 27 August 1847.
Booth of Captain Purden’s prudent actions, the fever on board, and John Robertson’s
preparations for the immigrants.
Letter from Miss Catherine Bradley,
Saint John, N.B., to “Uncle John”, 6 October 1847.
thankfulness for Richard Yeats (see letter 6) finding her employment. Describes
her “good situation.” Mentions Catharine and Biddy Hennigan (letter 14). Enquires
after, and sends news of friends and family.
Letter from Patt
and Cathorine McGowan, Saint John, N.B., to “Brother Roger,” 25 December 1847.
contracted while on voyage, as well as quarantine on Partridge Island. Discusses
finding lodging and employment in Saint John. Mentions going to John Robertson,
“Merchant who is joined in Merchandise with henery gore…” (letter 02 & 03) to
seek employment. Sends news of friends and of prices.
Letter from Bryan
Clancy and his sister, Saint John, N.B., to their mother and brother, 17 November
at leaving Ireland and states “we offten wished we never Seen St. John.” Describes
deaths of friends, difficulty finding lodging and employment, and relates that
the government wants to send all emigrants sent by Sir Robert Gore Booth and
Lord Palmerston back to Ireland, fearing for their wellbeing over the winter.
They are living with Patt McGowan and his wife (letter 08)
Letter from John
Mullawny, Mary and Margaret, Saint John, New Brunswick, to their father, mother
and brothers, 4 July 1847.
passage, including illnesses, 35 deaths on board, a storm, and fishing with
some sailors off the banks of Newfoundland. John describes his duties onboard
the ship and states that all three of them found employment upon arrival. Asks
for information regarding home and states that, “…this is a Dull Country.” The
letter also alludes to John’s religious functions and faith.
Letter from John, Mary, and Margert Mullowney, Saint John, British
North America, to “Father and Mother,” 22 November 1847.
previous letter sent was received by Sir Robert Gore Booth’s wife and exemplifies
difficulties in communication between the immigrants and Ireland. States that
fever is killing thousands but that they are in good health. Provides details
of neighbours from home who have also immigrated and enquires after friends
Letter from Eliza Quin, New York, to her parents, 22 January 1848.
after friends, family, and the landlord, Sir Robert Gore Booth. Expresses her
happiness at immigrating to New Brunswick and sends her compliments to Lady
Letter from Ference McGowan, Saint John, N.B., to “Father and Mother,”
13 October 1847.
of good health and “plenty of work,” but describes fever on the ship passage.
Enquires after family and neighbours and sends news of friends who emigrated.
Recommends that no one else take passage at this time due to the large number
of immigrants already present and the fever which “is in every house.” States
that he intends to go to the United States. Provides rates for common household
Letter from Catherine Hennagan, Saint John, N.B., to her mother and father,
15 February 1848.
“favorable passage,” followed by time in quarantine at Partridge Island where
illness struck and the death of her daughter Biddy. She describes the suffering
of the Irish in particular, stating that “…Pen could not write the distress
of the Irish Passengers which arrived here thro Sickness death and distress
of every Kin[d].”
Letter from Mary
McBride, Newbury Port, Mass., to Mr. William Gifgut, 23 October, unknown year.
Mary and her sister arrived in Saint John, travelled to Boston, and then on
to Newbury Port. Arranges to send money to Ireland to bring family members to
New York. Sends news of friends who immigrated to Saint John.
Letter from Owen
and Honr. Henigan, Hallowell State of Maine, to their son,” 17 March 1848.
“…miserable St Johns it is allmost as bad as Ireland…” Suggests that their son
should move to Maine as they have. Sends news of friends who also immigrated.
States that “there is Some trouble betwixt Irish folks here”.
Mary Feeny and note from Roger Geeny, Saint John, N.B., to father and mother,
3 August 1847.
ease of finding employment and close proximity of John Mullowny and his sisters
(letter 10 & 11). Sends news of family and friends who emigrated and enquires
after those left behind. Contains a section by Mary Feeny followed by a note
from Roger Geeny. Also includes a few lines from John Mullowny to his father,
mother and brothers Patt and Mick Mullowny, anxious for word from them. States
that he received word that Sir Robert Gore received his last letter to them
and would not hand it over to his parents right away.
Letter from One Boyle, Agusta, Maine, to Mother, 13 December 1847.
of finding employment, the seasonal wages, and the price of some goods. Enquires